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Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 13:12 UK
War blitz evacuee tells his story
By Jason Martin
BBC Oxford

London during the Blitz
Over 43,000 civilians and 1 million houses were lost during The Blitz

"You're going and that's it. We had no choice in the matter. Basically it was a terrible experience."

This is how David Hattersley describes the moment that he and his brother and sister were told they'd be evacuated.

They left their home in the East End of London on 1st September 1939 because of impending attacks from German bombers.

The experience was particularly frightening because the children were not told where they were going to and were to be separated from their mother.

They were bundled onto an 18 carriage train carrying 1,300 children destined for, unbeknownst to them, Chipping Norton.

"You were leaving your mother and didn't know where you were going or if you were coming back or not. I can remember children being dragged onto the train crying" is how David describes the harrowing experience.

Coming from London's East End, David admits that he had "never even seen a cow or sheep before" but wishing to honour his mother's parting words to "keep together", the siblings were sent together to a farm.

After a short stay of five months the children were unable to settle properly and due to frequent bedwetting were moved briefly onto Enstone before being moved back to Chipping Norton where David's sister unfortunately had to be re-housed separately. This arrangement lasted for two years.

David admits that the transition from city to country life and only seeing his mother once a month was difficult but is very appreciative of the care and support their adoptive families gave during their stay: "We were well looked after, bathed every night, and we had plenty of food to eat."

Coming from what David calls a slum area where "we wore what we had on because we had nothing else" the children were accepted into the Chipping Norton community and David is adamant that "Chipping Norton changed my and my family's life".

Speaking about the day-to-day life, David admits that "school didn't do any of us much use." Indeed, David recalls one "Dennis the Menace" moment where he was caught stealing apples from his headmaster's apple tree and was caned in front of his classmates as punishment.

When not at school David and his brother were expected to help out on the farms and all the children were given one day off school each week to pick potatoes. This gave the children a sense of accomplishment because they felt they were contributing to the war effort.

David and his siblings moved back to live with their mother during the last part of the Blitz in 1942 and while they were delighted to be back in London the war made day-to-day living incredibly difficult.

David recalls living day and night in a shelter and the constant bombing, one of which almost claimed his life.

After the war David joined the merchant navy aged s16 and met his wife-to-be who was working with his sister in London. After a brief period as penpals the couple eventually married and have been together for 55 years.




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